One of the cool things we trolley drivers get to see are the effects of a heavy frost on the current collecting shoes of the trolley buses. The ice collects on the wire and causes the shoes to lose contact with the wire which results in electrical arcing. Picture a trolley bus driving along with a trail of sparks emanating from the wire as the coach drives by. It’s pretty darn cool. When the ice gets really heavy, Metro replaces the shoes on the first couple of coaches to leave the base with steel shoes, instead of the standard carbon shoes. The steel shoes are stronger and knock the ice off and act as an icebreaker. I’m guessing I didn’t have steel shoes this morning, but I may have – More experience will be necessary to tell the difference.
I hadn’t thought about it when I left the base but did notice that the coach was losing contact with the wires quite a bit. It wasn’t until I saw another trolley coming towards me that I realized what was going on. At that point, I noticed that I was lighting up the street as I drove by – I was probably the 4th or 5th coach through this particular piece of wire on East Cherry St, so I’m sure the light show was even better earlier.
If anybody wants to witness this event, I suggest getting up very early on a morning with a very heavy frost. Head out to the end of a trolley route, such as the 3, 4, 2, or 1, that doesn’t get much traffic so you can watch the first couple of buses go by. If you can find a section of wire that has a lot of “special work” (places where the wires cross with other wires) that’s even better. (Disclaimer: Diesel buses are placed on most trolley routes on the weekends to allow for construction reroutes so no light show on weekends – You’ve been warned)